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Wave Speed

Wave Speed

Transverse Wave AnatomyIntroduction: Waves and wave speed play a pivotal role in our everyday lives. One way of studying and understanding the world is sound. Sound is an example of a wave, or a disturbance that travels along a medium from one end to another. Sound waves travel in different media at different speeds, meaning that speed will reach our ears in different amounts of time.
The equation used to calculate the speed of waves, like sound waves, is as follows:
v=fλ, where v=speed (in m/s), f=frequency (in Hz, or s-1), and λ=wavelength (in meters)
In the case of sound waves, specifically, the speed of sound depends on three factors: the elasticity of the sound wave, the density of the sound wave, and the temperature of the medium through which the sound wave travels. Generally, the lower the density is and the greater the elasticity is, the higher the speed of sound that travels through the medium. When temperature increases, the speed of sound generally tends to increase.
It is important to note, however, that the equation used to calculate speed is used for all types of waves. For example, the equation above can be used to calculate the frequency of a wave, given the speed of light and the wavelength of the light wave. The fact that the speed of sound is generally lower than the speed of light is what enables us to determine how far away lightning strikes when we hear the sound of lightning.

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